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10 More Famous Songs With Unknown Originals

Saint Cad . . . Comments

As a follow-up to my previous list, I’ve noticed that a cover of an “unknown” original for most people simply means the remake was better than the original. My goal is that with at least one song on this list, you never knew the version you know and loved was a cover.


Blueberry Hill
Gene Autry

Sung first in the movie “The Singing Hill” (1941), the song was covered numerous times by popular artists before Fats Domino recorded the version we are all familiar with. Perhaps the surprising thing is that none of those covers were remembered.


Tainted Love
Gloria Jones

A Motown-style B-side on a record that flopped, it barely survived in Britain’s Northern soul clubs during the ’70s. Jones tried to revive it in 1976 by re-releasing it with a mediocre funk guitar line and a little harsher singing style but that effort failed too, probably because it was worst than the first version. It was saved by obscurity when Soft Cell did their cover which musically fit the early ’80s scene perfectly.


Cum on Feel the Noize

Apparently in the early ’70s, Joe Flaherty of SCTV fame grew some long hair and sideburns and decided to dress all in plaid. He teamed up with a guitar-playing Sparklettes truck and a bass player that looks normal next to those two despite wearing clothes from the 1970s. Despite the fact that they completely don’t look it, they actually rock.


I Love Rock and Roll

Slade-inspired band Arrows (not The Arrows) had a TV show that ran for two series (seasons in the US) in the 1970s. Besides Joan Jett’s famous cover, the song was also done by Britney Spears and Kristen Wiig. I dare you to listen to those covers all the way through.


Bette Davis Eyes
Jackie DeShannon

Close your eyes and imagine listening to this song. You hear Kim Carnes’ raspy voice and the question is: is she angry or on a three pack a day cigarette habit (or both). What you probably didn’t hear was something straight off of Broadway. Jackie DeShannon was actually a major player in the ’60s rock and roll scene and she barely missed hitting it big with “Put a Little Love in Your Heart” and “What the World Needs Now Is Love.”


Georgia On My Mind
Hoagy Carmichael

Apparently, up to about 30 years ago, everyone knew Hoagy Carmichael did the original song and now everyone thinks it was Ray Charles. Set up as a orchestral piece, the original was done by all-star musicians like Gene Krupa, Tommy Dorsey and Bix Beiderbecke with Carmichael singing. Two pieces of trivia: Georgia On My Mind is the state song of Georgia (you probably knew that) and in Ian Fleming’s James Bond books, he is often said to look like Hoagy Carmichael.



WTF? I’ve never even heard of this song! Exactly. But I guarantee that you’ve heard of the more famous cover “Mickey” by Toni Basil. This song comes from their first (actually only) album Smash and Grab. They broke up and now there are two groups named Racey that you’ve never heard of.


Me and Bobby McGee
Roger Miller

Did you know Bobby McGee was a woman? It’s true. In fact when Fred Foster proposed the song idea to Kristofferson, the idea that Bobby McKee (the original last name) was female was the hook. The song has a certain association with death. The inspiration for the line “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose” was inspired by a death in the movie “La Strada” and Janis Joplin recorded her version just before her death. You may be familiar with Kristofferson’s version of the song but that wasn’t the original (surprise!). It was originally recorded by Roger Miller and covered three times before Kris recorded his version.


Mack the Knife
Kurt Gerron

It’s our friends from the first list, songwriter Bertholt Brecht and music writer Kurt Weill. This song was written for the movie “The Threepenny Opera.” The lyrics were significantly changed and downplayed the murders and rape when translated for an American audience. In the film, the song is sung by Kurt Gerron but Lili… errr, Lotte Lenya had a part in the song development. She was performing “The Threepenny Opera” on Broadway when Louis Armstrong did his cover. She sat in the studio and Armstrong ad-libbed her name in the list of women admirers.


Turn, Turn, Turn
Pete Seeger

Any banjo players out there need to know that no banjo player can actually sing. I saw a documentary on it (my son is learning to be a bluegrass fiddler) and not one banjo player could carry a tune. The version by The Byrds was so melodic that this one will be hard to listen to. The notes Pete Seeger sings don’t seem to match the notes he is playing at all. The lyrics themselves are taken from the Bible’s Book of Ecclesiastes but I don’t think King Solomon got songwriting credits.

  • Name

    A lot of the originals may be better than the re-makes….BUT….MACK THE KNIFE….can’t be done better than Louie SON!

  • Look At Me Mom I’m President Kennedy

    At least this list is better than yesterdays, thank god. I actually didn’t know alot of these songs’ original artists, thanks for the music lesson.

  • Pippa

    I’d hate to be first!
    Anyhow, i like this list. Didn’t know the real truth behind any of these, not that it has changed my life knowing it but would make a decent conversation topic for about 5 mins. Thanx Cad:-) y’all have a nice, lazy Sunday:-)

    is norm back, i wonder…da kids need new magic underwear…

  • notmynameobviously

    i actually prefers tainted love covered by marilyn manson.\m/

    • Agreed!! I also loved his covers of “Sweet Dreams” and “Personal Jesus”.

  • I was aware of the Slade song – but don’t know of any cover versions! Showing my age. Good list, thanks.

  • suggs

    Slade an unknown original????

    Not in england.. They are very well known and still awsum!

    • Mrs Marvel

      America relegates Slade to MTV’s Metal Mania show. I love them tho, and Rainbow too, another long forgotten rock band.

  • Cynic

    I like #7…i mean the song not that britney spears who spearheaded her own career…..the song, it was one of my favorite…though i dont listen it anymore…

    • Wardrich

      Dafuq. I think you meant Joan Jett. Britney see version is trash.

  • wltra

    I’ve expected a follow-up list on this subject matter. To echo another comment, Slade was many a European band who was criminally ignored in the states. I was aware of a number of the songs listed, but there was a surprise or two. Good list.

  • Cynic

    @JFrater… Something is wrong with this comment section… Like in the previous list, i posted a reply to a dude down below but the post ended up above and when i posted above it ended down below…. Havent you notice the anomaly??? Its been happening quite alot….

  • Slade were massive back in the early 70s in the UK, hit after hit, I couldn’t even tell you who the supposedly more famous version was by if it was written down in front of me!

    • Matt C

      I had to look to see there was a cover version too!

      The Quiet Riot version I assume he’s refering to as more famous is so similar, I might have heard it before and assumed it was Slade.

  • me

    Ro be fair, Pete Seeger must have been in his 80s in that video. no wonder he can’t really do notes anymore

  • Hey, if it didn’t happen in the US of A, apparently it didn’t happen at all. Slade rocked and had more fun on stage than most of the bands I’ve seen. With 15 or more top 20 hits in the UK, they more than held their own. A bit like Madness, eh Suggs?

    • Maggot

      Yeah right. While rock fans in the UK were spending the early 70s fawning over this joke band, we in the States were listening to actual talented Brit acts, like Zep, Sabbath, and Deep Purple. Not to mention, the Stones’ best era, the great Who’s Next album, and if you want to focus just on glam, then Bowie and even T Rex and Mott. The fact that Slade had more hits and outsold all of these other bands in the UK during the early 70s (at least according to Wiki) says more about those idiots across the pond than it does about music fans in the U.S.

      • wltra

        Reply to Maggot: actually, I like Purple, Zep and Sabbath as well. I noted you mentioned “Who’s Next” (indeed a landmark album; it would have been interesting to see how Lifehouse would have turned out had it come to fruition). But, as I age (ni**a would refer to me as an “oldfag” even though I’m straight), I’m developing an affinity for European acts that made no impact stateside…such as Camel, Caravan, Can, Soft Machine and VDGG…in addition to Slade.

        Getting back on topic, I’ve always liked Roger Miller’s ultimate hobo anthem “King of the Road”.

      • Spud

        Also shows you got no sense of fun, dullard!
        And of course, all of those bands didn’t make an impact in their home country…
        Bell end

      • One man’s meat is another man’s poison. Bieber sells big in the US, do you want us to judge the whole country’s musical taste on that basis?

  • I’cia

    Really liked the list.. Tainted Love by Soft Cell is far better than the original.

  • Mark

    A good list, however how hard would it have been to include the original artist’s name, year of song release, album name, and the same information for the cover of each song?

  • Spud

    Slade?!?! Seriously?!?
    How the hell is that an unknown cover?!? And then you sin further by not even naming Noddy Holder!
    Shame on you

  • hillwilliam

    I live in the states and i agree with my european freinds. slade was a great band. Is pete seegers version the fiirst recorded?being a bible passage it haa probably been sung for a millineum before him.

  • Alan Ollier

    The only cover of Cum on feel the noise I’m aware of is Martyn Carthy’s folk style version (very different but not quite as entertaining as the original) and as for Slade being unknown, they were a veritable hit factory in the UK in the 70’s.

    • Ni99a

      70’s? Please off you oldfag.

  • Ni99a

    How do you know these songs? Do South Africans have radios?

    You know…. the box that makes sound?

  • Ni99a

    How do you know these songs? Do South Africans have radios?

    You know…. the box that makes sound?

  • skin2win


  • ua

    He was 91 years old, asshole. I’d like to see you singing in your 90s. Oh… wait, you’ll probably be dead.

  • dalinean

    SLADE! were a major British rock group with many many hits from the late sixties to mid seventies.
    Unknown NOT!

  • honkster7

    Stagger Lee – most people know it as a Lloyd Price or Wilson Pickett song but

    it was first known around the early 1920’s .

    Other notable artists to record it , Woody Guthrie , Nick Cave ,

    Tommy Roe , James Brown , Pat Boone .

  • John Paul II

    Sorry, but Die Dreigroschenoper/Threepenny Opera was written for the stage, not as a film. The film versions came much later.

  • Ortho_Fan

    While I enjoyed this list, I don’t think “Unknown Originals” applies to any of the songs. Information about the original versions can easily be tracked down with a few mouse clicks.

    I especially enjoyed “Georgia on My Mind.” Probably, the most famous version, PRIOR to the one recorded by Ray Charles, was done in 1931 by the Paul Whiteman Orchestra, with Mildred Bailey as the vocalist.

    (I know that what I’m about to say will ruffle the feathers of Ray Charles fans, but I never liked the song until I heard Mildred’s 1931 recording. When I first heard the Ray Charles version, to me, he–frankly–sounded like he was constipated. Even today, when I hear all that moaning and groaning, I think that one more “GEEOOOORRRRGIAAAAHHHH” will get it out.)

    In contrast, Mildred Bailey, who would become one of the great Jazz singers of the 1930s, used her abilities to emphasize the MEANING of the lyrics, dispensing with vocalizations and affectations that are now the standard for most popular singers. The song, after all, is about a simple desire to return home, or depending on how you interpret “Georgia”–a state or a person–to someone you love.


    • david

      Willie Nelson > Ray Charles

  • wltra

    reply to Cynic…I’ve noted that happening a lot too. In addition, I’ve also noted that the gravitar icons have for the most part been replaced by question marks, comments have been difficult to access (it took me nearly ten hours Friday to do so, even though I have javascript enabled) and when I enter my password, I receive a diagnostic error stating I’m not logged on when in fact I am. I even had to utilize a new user id and the damn format only allowed me five characters. As Listverse implements further changes within the year I see more of such headaches coming.

  • blud

    To be fair – this isn’t the original of ‘Mack the Knife’. The Threepenny Opera was a stage musical and the singer/instruments aren’t the same as in the 1931 film, seen here. The musical had already been out for 3 years by the time this was released.

  • ParusMajor

    Jackie De Shannon actually recorded rock’n’roll/rockabilly already in 1958 as Jackie Dee for the Liberty label (Imperial’s subsidiary, Eddie Cochran also recorded for Liberty), check this out:

  • Pippa

    @cynic :
    u left some stupid words, all mangled up, in a ‘reply’ to one of my blogs recently, calling me some choice names as well.
    I demand an apology.
    Time to grow up!

  • ParusMajor

    Besides, the best version of “Tainted Love” is this, no question:

  • Canadianguy

    Dazed and Confused:

    Which Jimmy Page covered with two of his bands,
    The Yardbirds:

    and of course, Led Zeppelin:

  • Canadianguy

    I think this was mentioned in a previous list, or maybe in the discussion section (probably by me), but Kurt Weill’s Alabama Song has been covered by The Doors and David Bowie.

    I personally enjoy Marilyn Manson’s performance of this song most since it pays homage to the dadaist/cabaret ethos of the original.

  • Beaudetsmith

    I can not Identify the 10 more famous songs.

  • The trouble with your theory about banjo players is Roger McGuinn started as a banjo player. As a folkie he played with a number of acts, including the Chad Mitchell trio. Then he went to the movies and saw saw Harrison and Lennon playing Ricks and traded his acoustic axes for his fabled Rickenbacker 12-string. But he kept the finger picks and used a lot of banjo licks and techniques when he played.

    And of course he sang lead on most Byrd songs.

    But yeah his guitar work on “Turn Turn Turn is incredible.

  • Andyman

    Slade actually made it into MTV’s rotation in the early 80’s with “Run Runaway”. Of course they were kinda old farts by then.

  • BlackLutefisk

    This is the ugly American equivalent of a top ten. A more honest title of this list is “I’m Not That Knowledgable About Music History (and Assume You’re Not Either, Right?) and Never Heard of Glam Rock, So Here’s 10 Paved Over Classics I Now Know About.”

  • Edvado

    That would probably make sense if the Bible was a song instead of a book. Seeger put those words to music.

  • Cody

    Biggest miss ever!!!!!

    Dolly Parton -“I will always love you.” made popular by Whitney Houston

    also “When the Stars go Blue” by Tim McGraw was stolen from Ryan Adams

  • Steve

    I’m guessing far more people do not know that certain songs are not the originals than those who know they are. What I mean is far more people probably think Joan Jett’s version of “I love Rock And Roll” is the original. The same goes for most songs on this list and songs in general. I’m guessing most people under the age of say 25 think Uncle Kracker had a great original hit with “Drift Away” and they probably never heard of the Doobie Brothers which for all I know were not the first to record the song.

  • Noddy

    Slade was a great band and everyone knew Quiet Riot ripped them off

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  • Ejaz Khan

    Amazing collection.Totally awesome.

  • Beej

    Hahahahahahaha. I have that Racey album. I’m tragic, I know.

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